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Six Palestinians arrested as far-right Israeli settler groups begin to march through occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City

Arwa Ibrahim

Israeli far-right nationalists began a flag-waving march through  occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday that risks reigniting tensions with Palestinians and poses an early challenge for Israel’s new government. At least six Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli forces, and dozens more were assaulted and forcibly removed from the Damascus Gate plaza leading to the Old City.

Israeli far-right nationalists began a flag-waving march through 
occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday that risks reigniting tensions 
with Palestinians and poses an early challenge for Israel’s new government. At least six Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli forces, and dozens more were assaulted and forcibly removed from  the Damascus Gate plaza leading to the Old City.

Metal barriers were set up by Israeli police on the roads leading to Damascus Gate, which has been sealed off to prevent the entry of Palestinians.

The so-called March of the Flags celebrates the anniversary of Israel’s 1967 occupation of the city’s eastern part. “The right to demonstrate is a right in all democracies,” said Israel’s Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev. “The police is ready and we will do everything in our power to preserve the delicate thread of coexistence.”

Palestinians view the march as provocative as Jewish settlers flaunt their sovereignty over the occupied territory. Previous marches have included Israeli chants of “Death to Arabs” and the attacking of Palestinian homes and shops in the Old City.
Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem since the Six-Day War of 1967 is not recognised by most of the international community, which says the city’s final status should be a matter of negotiation between the two sides.

7 mins ago (18:18 GMT)

Palestinians in Gaza protest against Israeli nationalist march

Palestinians raise signs that read “Jerusalem belongs to us” during a protest in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on June 15, 2021. [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

Hundreds of Palestinians protested throughout several cities and towns in the Gaza Strip against the Israeli nationalist march in occupied East Jerusalem.

Some protesters burned pictures of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett, the current Prime Minister.

Al Jazeera’s Youmna El Sayed said many officials of different Palestinian factions have spoken at these protests.

“They have said that these protests are just to send a message, that while the flag march provokes Palestinians, they will not be quiet as all options are in front of the Palestinian resistance to respond to any kind of aggression by Israeli authorities towards the people of Jerusalem,” she said, speaking from Gaza City.

Palestinians in Khan Younis set fire to a poster depicting Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a demonstration protesting the Israeli nationalist march in the Old City of Jerusalem [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

42 mins ago (17:43 GMT)

Israeli far-right march moves to Jerusalem’s Old City

Israelis hold flags as they visit the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site in Jerusalem’s Old City, June 15,2021. [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]The so-called Flag Parade in Damascus Gate has ended, and hundreds of Israeli nationalists have moved away from the area to enter Jerusalem’s Old City through Jaffa Gate, a main thoroughfare for tourists.

“Most of them were pushed out by police,” Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker said.

The Flag Parade was “a provocative show of force by the ultra right-wing Jewish settlers who came here flying their flags,” she added.

The march has passed through the Jewish quarter and will end at the Western Wall, where Jews can pray.

1 hour ago (16:59 GMT)

Israeli right-wing marchers chant racist slogans

Israelis dance with flags by Damascus Gate just outside Jerusalem’s Old City June 15, 2021. [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

Hundreds of Jewish nationalists participating in the “Flag Parade” in the Damascus Gate area were heard chanting “Death to Arabs” in Hebrew. In another anti-Arab chant, they yelled: “May your village burn.”

One Israeli man shouted at Palestinians in Arabic: “A second Nakba is coming” – referring to the 1948 ethnic cleansing of at least 700,000 Palestinians by Zionist paramilitaries.

Palestinians say such chants are heard every year during the march.

According to the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronoth, the Israeli far-right member of parliament Itamar Ben-Gvir, was present during the march.

The daily also reported that four Palestinian Israeli lawmakers, Ahmad Tibi, Ayman Odeh, Osama Saadi and Sami Abu Shehada, had arrived at the Damascus Gate and criticised the decision to allow the march.

2 hours ago (16:31 GMT)

Israeli forces injure 17 Palestinians in Jerusalem

A member of the Israeli forces pushes away a Palestinian man in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem, on June 15, 2021 [Menahem Kahana/AFP]At least 17 Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli forces in the surrounding area of the Old City, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

At least three of the wounded were taken to hospital, while the rest of the injuries were treated in the field.

The Red Crescent also reported that Israeli forces fired on an ambulance and halted the movement of the medical team involved.

2 hours ago (15:57 GMT)

Israeli forces prevent raising of Palestinian flag by Damascus Gate

At least two cases of a raised Palestinian flag being snatched by Israeli forces has been captured by local Palestinian journalists on video.

In the first incident, a Palestinian woman near the Damascus Gate area raised the flag for a few seconds before Israeli forces grabbed it and pushed the Palestinian woman back from the area.

Caption: They cannot stand the sight of the Palestinian flag. Israeli occupation police attack a Jerusalemite woman who raised the flag in front of Damascus Gate

A second video shows another woman raising the Palestinian flag in the face of the Israeli nationalists during their “Flag Parade”, before she was knocked to the ground by Israeli forces.

3 hours ago (15:37 GMT)

Israeli nationalists begin march outside Old City in East Jerusalem

Israelis walk while holding flags outside occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City on June 15, 2021. [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]Hundreds of Jewish nationalists gathered several hundred metres from Damascus Gate near Jerusalem’s Old City.

Most appeared to be young, religious men, and many held blue-and-white Israeli flags. The crowd appeared to be much smaller than during last month’s parade, which was postponed.

“Jerusalem is for all religions, but Jerusalem is in Israel. And in Israel, we must be able to go wherever we want, with our flag,” said marcher Doron Avrahami, 50, channelling right-wing frustrations with police restrictions.

4 hours ago (14:54 GMT)

Five Palestinians injured: Red Crescent

A Palestinian medic stands next to tear gas fired by Israeli forces during a protest over a flag-waving procession by far-right Israeli groups in and around occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City, in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank June 15, 2021. [Mussa Qawasma/Reuters]

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Jerusalem has reported five people were injured during confrontations with Israeli forces in the vicinity of occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City.

Three were wounded with rubber bullets, one was physically beaten, and another was injured by a stun grenade fired by Israeli police.

The Red Crescent in Jerusalem has summoned all its employees and volunteers in anticipation of confrontations with the Israeli forces, and opened a field hospital at its headquarters in al-Sawwana neighbourhood to treat minor and moderate injuries.

At least 13 ambulances are on standby in occucpied East Jerusalem, in addition to three ambulance trailers within the Old City.

4 hours ago (14:36 GMT)

No access to Damascus Gate

Israeli forces have blocked access to the Damascus Gate and are pushing Palestinians away from the area, specifically targeting the youth who are often pushed to the ground and chased out of the vicinity.

People can neither enter or exit the Damascus Gate, one of the openings into the Old City.

In one instance, the police attempted to make a shop owner close his store. Other vendors in the area have emptied their stalls.

“I had to shut down my bread stall because of the trouble,” Abu Rafiq told Al Jazeera.

Abu Rafiq, a bread seller, had to empty his stall due to the tensions surrounding Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem [Ibrahim Husseini/Al Jazeera]

4 hours ago (14:18 GMT)

‘Major provocation’

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker said the settler march will not enter through the Damascus Gate. The area is “the heart of occupied East Jerusalem where Palestinians usually gather,” she said, speaking from the site. The march will begin within the Damascus Gate plaza, where the “Flag Parade” will take place for about 40 minutes, she explained.

But unlike previous years, the Gate has been locked, meaning that the march will not enter the Muslim Quarter in the Old City.

Instead, the march will have to “leave back up the stairs and move outside the walls of the Old City into Jaffa Gate and go in that way,” Dekker said.

“Palestinians will tell you this [march] is a major provocation,” full of “racist slogans against the Palestinians,” she added.

“These are far-right Jewish settlers celebrating the occupation of east Jerusalem, and that is something that is incredibly inciteful.”

5 hours ago (12:56 GMT)

Israeli forces close off streets leading to Damascus Gate

Israeli forces closed off roads leading to Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem, as others forced Palestinians on the steps of the gate leading into the Old City to leave.

Videos shared on social media showed Israeli police forces setting up metal barricades, blocking off all the paths to the gate.

Translation: Israeli forces close streets leading to Damascus Gate and prevent Jerusalemites from reaching it in preparation for the settlers’ ‘Flags March’. 

6 hours ago (12:49 GMT)

Palestinians attacked by Israeli forces

Israeli special forces troops have attacked young Palestinian men in the Damascus Gate plaza.

Nearby, an old Palestinian man on crutches and an elderly woman were also roughed up by police.

A video shared on social media showed several Israeli policemen beating up a Palestinian man near Damascus Gate, as they dragged him down a flight of steps.

Translation: Damascus Gate. Five policemen! Why?

Fatima Khader, 62, from the Old City, denounced the confiscation of her home by Israeli settlers, and the jailing of her children.

“My house was taken by the Israelis. I was assaulted by Israelis,” she told Al Jazeera. “There is no international law to protect us – what law is this? I am old, they took my children and put them in prison.”

Fatima Khader says she was assaulted by Israeli police in the past [Al Jazeera]

6 hours ago (12:41 GMT)

Palestinians launch incendiary balloons into Israel over march

Palestinian activists launched incendiary balloons and kites from the Gaza Strip towards areas in southern Israel.

“The kites are in response to the provocative flag march in East Jerusalem on Tuesday,” a Palestinian activist who identified himself 

as Abu Houzayfa told Anadolu Agency.

The incendiary balloons or kites contain flammable material or oil-soaked rags that may ignite fires once they land on crops.

The Israeli fire brigade said the balloons caused at least 20 blazes in fields in the Israeli towns surrounding the Gaza Strip.

Masked Palestinian supporters of the Al-Nasir Salah Al-Din Brigades prepare incendiary balloons east of Gaza city, to launch across the fence towards Israel on June 15, 2021 [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

6 hours ago (12:32 GMT)

Israeli police seal off Damascus Gate

Palestinian media reported that Israeli police forces prevented Palestinians from reaching Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Videos posted on social media showed Israeli police installing metal barricades as Palestinians were blocked from going through the barriers.

Translation: Israeli forces prevent Palestinians from reaching Damascus Gate. 

6 hours ago (12:22 GMT)

‘Clear provocation’, says Israeli councillor

Laura Wharton, councilwoman in the Jerusalem City Council, told the Associated Press that she considered the planned march “completely ridiculous”.

“It’s a clear provocation of extreme right-wingers who are dissatisfied with the government, dissatisfied with a lot of things, and are going to vent their frustrations on the residents of the Old City,” said Wharton.

The march poses an early test for Israel’s fragile new government, which was sworn in on Sunday and includes parties from across the political spectrum.

Cancelling the march would have opened Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other right-wing members of the coalition to intense criticism from the Israeli right-wing who would view it as a capitulation to Hamas.

6 hours ago (12:15 GMT)

Iron Dome system readied in Israel’s south

The Iron Dome missile system batteries could be seen in Israel’s south, as the army deployed them amid heightened tensions with Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The decision by Israel’s new government to grant approval for the contentious parade by Israeli nationalists through Palestinian areas around Jerusalem’s Old City raises the possibility of renewed confrontations just weeks after an 11-day assault on Gaza by Israel.

undefinedIsraeli Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept rockets fired from Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel on May 11 [File: Ariel Schalit/AP]

6 hours ago (11:57 GMT)

‘Palestinians terrified of losing their homes’

Hussein Nasser Eddin, 35, from Shuafat in occupied East Jerusalem said there could be major problems if more people congregate at Damascus Gate to confront the Israel marchers.

But he said lots of police are present so they will prevent people from arriving. Most of the problems will be in the Old City, the logistics officer with local media suggested.

“Palestinians are very angry. People are terrified of losing their homes with the forced expulsions and demolitions,” Eddin told Al Jazeera.

Khalid Alian, 26, from Jabal al-Mukaber also denounced Israeli settlers for forcing Palestinians out of their homes.

“This is our land and the settlers are taking our land and taking our future and dreams away. Eight of my friends were killed by Israeli soldiers. If you had documents proving ownership of your land, how would you feel if you were thrown out to make way for settlers?” he asked.

7 hours ago (11:42 GMT)

Israel deploys thousands of extra police ahead of march

Israeli police said it will deploy 2,000 forces to provide protection for participants in the planned “flag march” across occupied East Jerusalem. According to the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, the police forces will be deployed in the vicinity of the routes that the participants will take during the march.

The broadcaster said Israeli police also decided to reinforce their presence in the mixed cities inside Israel in anticipation of violence.

7 hours ago (11:36 GMT)

‘All options on the table’, warns Hamas

When the march was originally announced for last week, senior Hamas official Khalil Hayya warned it could lead to a return to violence that killed more than 256 people in Gaza and 11 in Israel last month. Hamas spokesman Mohammed Hamadeh said mediators had been in contact with Palestinian armed groups in recent days to appeal to them “not to engage in a military escalation on the basis of the march”.

“All options remain on the table, however,” said Hamadeh.

Last month’s escalation began after several violent raids into the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and the Al Aqsa Mosque compound were carried out by Israeli forces. This led to Hamas issuing a deadline for Israel to remove its forces from these areas, and then fired a salvo of rockets at Israel when the ultimatum went unheeded. This in turn led to Israel to launch its offensive on the Gaza Strip.

7 hours ago (11:30 GMT)

Israeli settlers begin to gather for nationalist march

Israeli settlers began arriving midday while being escorted by plainclothes police. Heavily armed paramilitary border police and other forces patrolled the streets of the city, set up checkpoints, and blocked off roads throughout East Jerusalem. Iron barriers were placed outside the entrance to Damascus Gate, where Palestinians said they would gather to confront the Israelis. 

Young Palestinian men stood on street corners watching, and Palestinian shop owners started to close their businesses. Anti-march protests were expected against the march after midday prayers.

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound since morning to prevent settlers from trying to enter. Busloads came from inside Israel. Activists say if the Israeli settlers stay away from 

the compound the clashes will be less intense. Groups of young boys chanted slogans and refused to move away as police stood nearby.


Abu Obayda, the spokesman for Hamas' armed wing the Ezzedine alQassam Brigades, yesterday delivered a televised address to mark the occasion of Eid al Fitr.

After extending best wishes to people Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the whole of Palestine, he appraised the ongoing confrontation with Israel. "This battle has come to affirm that Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem and Palestine that was occupied in 1948 are all one body, one people, one destiny  and one resistance."

As for our message "to the criminal and cowardly enemy," Abu Obayda said:  "The entire world has seen your failure and your shame. What an alleged state that claims to be the primary power in the region while it directs its rage and rockets of malice toward safe apartments, civilian residential towers and public institutions and targets children, women and civilian facilities to take pride in the amount of destruction and fire power."

With regard to the Ezzedine alQassam Brigades, the spokesman said, "When it comes to responding to your aggression and rising in support of our holy places and our folks, there are no red lines and no sacred engagement rules and no complex calculations."

He assured the Palestinian masses and their supporters everywhere that:

"This weak entity can be defeated. It will surely be defeated and certainly be buried. Because it is an entity based on cheating, on falsehood, on injustice and on aggression. All you need do is rally around your cause and your resistance and rise to rescue the Mosque to which your Prophet, peace be upon him, was taken on a night journey."

A translation of the full address is as follows:

Praise be to Allah who provides the Mujahideen with victory; who humiliates the tyrants; and peace and prayers be upon the Prophet, the Mujahid and the Witness, upon his kin and companions, and upon those who hoist his flag until the Day of Judgement.

Happy Eid to our people and our Islamic Ummah, may it come again every year while we enjoy good life, victory and empowerment.

On the occasion of the blessed Eid Al-Fitr, an Eid that comes back to the land of Palestine when it has drawn its map with the noble blood of martyrs and the offerings of the resistance that knows no limits, we wish the best for our people in Gaza that performs jihad, in the valiant West Bank, in the blessed Jerusalem and in the whole of Palestine. We wish the families of our martyrs the best, we wish them honour and loftiness. We wish our wounded and our captives and their families the best, we wish them pride and dignity. We wish our lofty resistance the best, we wish it victory and glory.

O masses of our great people everywhere. O our Arab and Islamic Ummah, our people's battle with the foul enemy has been going on since it set foot on this land. Jerusalem has always been the focal point of the conflict and the icon of uprisings and the trigger of revolutions.

Today we are waging one of these battles, the Sword of Jerusalem Battle, which came in order to complement our people's uprising in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa and in support of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, which is threatened with eviction and Judaization, and in response to the cries of our people in the arenas and squares of the Holy City. Any price we pay, and will pay, is a sacrifice for Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem. For our existence has no meaning if we do not mobilise for Al-Aqsa rush in support for Jerusalem.

Our weapons and our accumulation of power, and our preparations over many years has only been for our land and for defending our people and our holy places. This battle has come to affirm that Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem and Palestine that was occupied in 1948 are all one body, one people, one destiny and one resistance. Therefore, it is not strange that a group of Al-Qassam heroes and pious men are martyred, foremost among them the great commander Bassim Eissa (Abu Imad), who spent his life as a solid tenacious mujahid in these blessed brigades until he met his Lord as a martyr yesterday morning with a group of great Al-Qassam engineers and heroes of military industry who have a clear thumb print and present hand in everything Al-Qassam Brigades possess and what it is offering today in the fields of Jihad and resistance. Congratulations to them for gaining martyrdom in the most honourable of battles and locations and in the best of times and in the holiest of lands and dearest of places.

Our pain over losing these honourable men is equal to our pride in paying every price and offering everything, expensive or otherwise, for the sake of our Jerusalem, our Aqsa, and the dignity of our people. The battle is worth the sacrifices and the objective is dear and the dowry is huge.

Greetings to the martyrs of The Sword of Jerusalem operation, of commanders and soldiers and of all the sons of our heroic people, who rallied around their Al-Aqsa and their resistance and they knew that the price would be paid in blood, souls, wealth, children and buildings.

Our people … our folks What distinguishes this battle is the unity of our people in all arenas and their engagement with the occupation at different levels depending on the circumstances in the field. For our people do not agree on anything as they do on the Jewel of the Crown, their sacred capital, and do not rally around something as they do around the option of resistance in dealing with this arrogant enemy. Greetings to our revolting people in Jerusalem, the West Bank and in Palestine that was occupied in 1948 who are the first line of defence for Al-Aqsa and the holy places and are at the immediate frontline with this enemy. So, proceed O our people the Bank of the Free (West Bank), in the holy city and in the cities and villages of the 1948. Leap over your enemy from where he does not expect. Rise to battle in every field. Know that you'll find Al-Qassam Brigades and resistance as you best expect, and in the field ahead of you and as a support right behind you. Our weapon is your weapon, our blood is you blood and our fate is your fate.

O sons of our steadfast and patient people! You have seen during the past few days some of what we have prepared and accumulated over many years during which we never ceased, not for an hour, to prepare for blitzing the castles and quarters of the enemy. Behind every one of your cheers of Allah-o-Akbar, in jubilation over our flying rocket in the skies of Palestine, there were hours, days and months of mighty efforts and constant work, as well as martyrs, casualties and sacrifices.

We would like to reassure you that we have more and in our pouch; there is plenty that will delight you and make you raise you heads high and make you proud in front of the world of your resistance and its men, its martyrs and its heroes. As for our message to the criminal and cowardly enemy, we give you the glad tidings. The entire world has seen your failure and your shame. What an alleged state that claims to be the primary power in the region while it directs its rage and rockets of malice toward safe apartments, civilian residential towers and public institutions and targets children, women and civilian facilities to take pride in the amount of destruction and fire power. Such cowardly exhibition did not conceal from the world's view the truth about your brittle entity as it ached under our rocket strikes that are unprecedented in the history of the conflict with you since you stole our land in 1948. Despite the huge disparity in power between us and you in terms of military capabilities, we have, with Allah's help, directed huge rocket strikes, which no state has dared, since the Nakba, direct toward you. The decision to strike Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Dimona, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheba, and what's before them and after them of our occupied cities, is easier for us than a drink of water if our Al-Aqsa is desecrated and our dignity  is violated.

When it comes to responding to your aggression and rising in support of our holy places and our folks, there are no red lines and no sacred engagement rules and no complex calculations.

Our strikes will be ready whenever you resume aggression or go further in it. You, stupid ones, have possessed the technology, the missiles and the planes. But you have not been able to decipher (the mystery about) this great people and this valiant resistance. Have [your] assassinations ever frightened us? Or have you ever seen a Palestinian child fearing your tyranny? And have you ever been able to stop our resistance through siege or destruction? Deploy as much as you wish of forces and mobilise all your mounting troops and infantry, from the sea, from the air and from the ground. We have prepared for you types of death that will make you curse yourselves. You will not see from us weakness or fear or retreat. You'll get nothing from us but the sword and the fire. History and the present are best witnesses. The future will be the decisive moment and the proof, with the help of Allah the Almighty.

O masses of our people and sons of our Ummah!

This weak entity can be defeated. It will surely be defeated and certainly be buried. Because it is an entity based on cheating, on falsehood, on injustice and on aggression. All you need do is rally around your cause and your resistance and rise to rescue the [Al Aqsa] Mosque to which your Prophet, peace be upon him, was taken on a night journey. And to rise in unison to lay siege on this enemy in all arenas and strike it with all means and resist with all available methods and tools.

In conclusion, greetings to the noble martyrs of The Sword of Jerusalem Operation. We pledge to them that we shall continue along the path they started. Greetings to the wounded, to the casualties and to those who hurt. The biggest greeting goes to our proud people in Gaza who are not content with other than glory, honour and coming first in defence of the land the Al-Aqsa, and who always lead with the flag in hand in all the battles and pay the cost on behalf of an entire Ummah.

Freedom for those who are in captivity whose predicament will soon come to an end, God willing. 

Greetings to our people in exile and in the diaspora who will, God willing, return once the entity of injustice is destroyed.

Greetings to all the free and honourable people around the world who support our cause and aid our resistance.

Victory is only given by Allah the Almighty.

It is a jihad that leads to either victory or martyrdom.

And peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah and His blessings.

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As I write, the building I live in here in Gaza is shaking continuously. Above us, Israeli F-16 warplanes pummel us with a seemingly endless barrage of bombs. I am writing amid a rapid flow of developing events, so it is certain that by the time this is published, many things may have changed, but I am trying to highlight the general features of this current round of escalation in Palestine.

The escalation began in Jerusalem during the month of Ramadan, in a series of provocations carried out by the Israeli occupation authorities.

The first in this series was the decision to prevent Palestinians from gathering at Bab al-Amoud (Damascus Gate) in Jerusalem in late April. This sparked a series of protests which eventually forced Israel to rescind the order.

Another – ongoing – provocation, which drew some international attention, is the expulsion orders pending against Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah that Israeli courts have granted to Israeli settlers.

A third Israeli provocation was the storming of al-Aqsa mosque during prayers on the morning of Friday, 7 May. Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets onto worshippers, resulting in over 200 injuries.

In a fourth provocation, settlers announced that on 10 May they would march through Jerusalem to celebrate what they term Jerusalem Day. The intention  was to march near al-Aqsa mosque.

This march escalated into a fifth provocation on the morning of 10 May as, for the second time in a week, Israeli forces stormed al-Aqsa, attacking worshippers praying inside and ransacking the sacred site. More than 300 Palestinians were injured.

A wave of anger These provocations persisted throughout Ramadan, and caused  a wave of anger to sweep through Palestinians across their homeland. Protests broke out in Haifa, Jaffa, Ramallah and Gaza. In Gaza, demonstrators called on the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, to intervene. Palestinians in Gaza strongly supported the need for a swift response by resistance factions to retaliate for the violations in Jerusalem.

I read what seemed like hundreds of messages from activists on social media asking Hamas why they were late in retaliating. Taxi drivers and shopkeepers, ordinary folks on the street: Everyone was posing the same question. Eventually, Qassam issued a warning that Israeli troops had two hours to evacuate al-Aqsa, lift the siege of the murabitoun – the faithful who remain at the site around the clock in order to protect it with their presence – and release all prisoners.

As the deadline expired, and Israel failed to respond, Qassam fired a burst of rockets towards Jerusalem. The Israeli military responded by bombarding the city of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Nine people, including three children, were killed there as they were preparing to break their fasts. Gaza freedom fighters kept retaliating and Israel expanded its bombardments to include residential homes. The Israeli air force destroyed several residential towers that also accommodated dozens of media offices and commercial establishments. Israel also attacked police offices and several government buildings, all civilian targets.

Why it’s different

The current escalation is distinguished by the fact that the Palestinian people demanded a response to the practices of the Israeli occupation. Hamas, in responding, is being considered heroic. There is no public judgment or denunciation of Hamas’ decision to act, even when citizens are paying the harshest price of Israeli aggression, losing their loved ones and their homes.

It is clear in Gaza that Palestinians remain firm in their belief in resistance as the pathway to liberation from occupation. This round of fighting is also significant because it came as a response to continuous violations in Jerusalem. All previous rounds of Hamas escalation have been provoked by Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. Thus, when Jerusalem called for Gaza’s aid, and Gaza rose to defend Jerusalem, this amplified the burgeoning sense of Palestinian national unity and liberated the Palestinian resistance from its isolation in Gaza.

Whether in Gaza or anywhere else in Palestine, Palestinians struggle against the occupation, whose attacks and violations affect them everywhere. This escalation has also been characterized by an increasingly defiant spirit within  the resistance factions. The cancelation of the “Jerusalem Day” march was an early victory. The reality of suffering and tragedy is always present in Israeli aggressions on Gaza. Still, this time, the escalation feels meaningful, it feels heroic.

People across Palestine desperately needed someone to make them feel supported and defended. Palestinians need to feel they are not paying the  price alone. It is therefore hugely significant that resistance has exploded  across historic Palestine. Israel has been committed to destroying the Palestinian identity, especially in deliberately economically deprived cities, towns and villages inside the 1948 boundaries – the areas where the state of Israel was declared that year, during the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Mass protests in those areas, the torching of police stations and the replacement of Israeli flags with Palestinian flags, all seem like a new revival of the Palestinian spirit. Palestinians are still deeply rooted in their land, clinging to their identity, their deep sense of unity is more significant than any factors that may divide, and their ability to survive Israel’s terror and crimes never ceases to amaze.

Israel has a powerful arsenal of missiles, and in an attempt to recover lost dignity in the face of Palestinian resistance, Israel continues to commit crimes against civilians in Gaza. Yet, Israeli power does not ensure legitimacy or stability. The Zionist project in Palestine is alien to this land, and all efforts to neutralize or eject the Palestinian presence have failed for more than 70 years. The Palestinian people may weaken, but they will not die. They have the will to fight until the end and certain victory.

Ahmed Abu Artema is a writer who lives in Gaza and a researcher at the Center for Political and Development Studies.
Zaid Hamid

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